Your Microbiome- Bite Sized Series

Tend to your microbiome and watch your health transform from your head to your toes

Research is continually showing that a balanced, rich, and robust microbiome is one of the major drivers of short term and long term health.

If I could only recommend one area for people to focus to ensure better overall health it would be on protecting and enhancing their microbiome. This is a core Foundation of Health.

Sometimes it feels overwhelming to me to even discuss the microbiome due to the fact that your microbiome is connected to every body system and cell in your body.

Your acute problem might be hormone imbalance, headaches, stubborn weight gain, chronic pain, insomnia, depression, fatigue, immune issues, skin rashes, boating, etc……………but the root cause could be in your gut and specifically, your microbiome.

I have found that no matter what you are trying to heal or repair or rebalance, addressing the microbiome will help everything function better. But this is no magic bullet because it actually takes time and sustainable small efforts, but the payoff is big.

To simplify things, we are going to take a ‘bite sized’ approach over time to look at the important roles of the microbiome and what you can do to protect your microbiome.

I will share 1 important function of the microbiome with 1 step you can take to optimize it at a time.

But before we go there……… The basics. Your microbiome is a unique ecosystem made of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microbes. We have far more microbes than we have human cells and they cover all the various parts of our body including our gut, skin, mouth, and lungs. These microbes dictate how we feel and how we function and how we age. The science around this is exploding right now as we learn about their important role in aging, energy, disease, autoimmunity, chronic symptoms, weight gain, hormone health, immune health, chronic inflammation and more.

NOTE- If one of these tips does not feel right, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. It is usually NOT the new habit but instead the state of your gut. You may need to restore a microbial imbalance before you can use ideal tips. Moving slowly is always best.

Let’s dig in! 1 bite at a time.




#1- A Boundary

Bite Size #1- Your microbiome is a major guardian, protecting you from what enters your body.

According to Dr. Kiran Krishnan- Microbiologist at Microbiome Labs, Our gut is where we are most exposed to the outside world.  This is why most of our immune system resides here. 

Our digestive tract is actually considered OUTSIDE THE BODY.  
The guards that protect what is allowed to come into the body are the MICROBES in our MICROBIOME (and the mucus layer they directly impact). If there is an imbalance in your microbiome, there is not proper protection.   (1)

“If your microbiome is robust and diverse there is amazing protection and improvement in our health and wellness in the short term and long term” says Dr. Krishnan.  (2)

We want to absorb nutrients from our food but keep out harmful substances such as mold, viral toxins, bacterial toxins, environmental toxins, undigested foods, etc. 

When this barrier function is not working (aka leaky gut), we can absorb these substances and the result is chronic inflammation.  And the thing is, this chronic inflammation goes above and beyond digestive issues.   In this case we might see symptoms like- brain fog, achy joints, headaches, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and more inflammatory symptoms and disease progression associated with again. 

A leaky gut, which is the root of so many chronic issues, starts with an imbalance in the microbiome, the guards are down and the mucosal barrier is disrupted. And again, digestive issues are not even present in these situations yet, the gut is the root of the problem but the symptoms are elsewhere. 

I have heard this roughly likened to a castle wall (the thin layer of the gut wall) being guarded from invaders by soldiers standing guard (the microbes in your gut). When the guards are few in number, or are made of disruptive characters, invaders can easily get in and the wall is destroyed. The guards are VITAL.

One of the most harmful things that can move across the boundary from the gut into the body and cause problems in this situation are Endotoxins, or toxins made in the body.  These include LPS or lipopolysaccharides that are made from gram negative bacteria.  They belong in the gut but NOT in the bloodstream.  When they enter the body through a leaky gut from an imbalanced microbiome it becomes a highly toxic compound that acts as a root cause for hundreds of chronic illnesses says Dr. Krishnan.  And again, these are NOT digestive issues.  (2)

Tip #1- One way you can protect the health of your microbiome is to EAT A WIDE VARIETY OF FOODS, including all of the colors at every meal. Diversity is KEY as the different microbes eat different foods (think a variety of veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans). Try new foods each week and enhance your microbiome.

Each of the different microbes in our gut feed off different foods. This is why a diverse diet is key to long term health above and beyond nutrient wise. Even if you eat a salad every day, change it up, get new veggies, add different nuts, seeds, fruits, fresh herbs, spices, healthy oils, clean proteins, etc. Download my rainbow food tool here to help.

REMEMBER- if eating a diverse diet does NOT feel right, get CURIOUS around what might be going on in your gut and your microbiome. You may need to rebalance your microbes first. (See my video here on HEAL vs IDEAL)




#2- Microbes make POSTBIOTICS that communicate with other parts of your body

Bitesize #2- POSTBIOTICS ARE FUNDAMENTAL FOR OVERALL HEALTH in all parts of the body, not just in the gut.

The friendly microbes in your gut feed off prebiotics and the result of this process are compounds called postbiotics.  These postbiotics, or compounds made by the microbes in your gut, are one important way the microbiome communicates directly with the immune system, the brain, the skin, our hormonal system, and every other cell in the body.  This is huge and we are learning more about this everyday as research in this area is growing fast. 

Short chain fatty acids (SCFA) are a type of postbiotic.  The one SCFA we hear a lot about is Butyrate. Butyrate is a POSTBIOTIC that is made when certain bacteria in the gut feed off certain fibers. You have to have the good bacteria and you have to feed them the right foods to get these postbiotics that we need for optimal health. 

Butyrate makes us more sensitive to insulin, it helps us to use fat for fuel, it feeds helpful microbes so they can grow, it talks directly to the immune system, and it is the main fuel for the gut wall so the gut can repair itself and provide a healthy boundary (7). 

Other postbiotics impact our neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, tryptophan and influences our mood in this way.  Others impact the brain through the vagus nerve and there is a lot of research happening in that area now.  Other postbiotics include B vitamins, vitamin K, amino acids, and antimicrobials that keep harmful microbes from growing. Yes, the microbes in your gut make those!!(4).

There is growing evidence that certain postbiotics positively impact allergies, eczema, colic, defense against viruses, weight loss, joint pain, eye issues, heart disease, constipation, diarrhea and other IBS and IBD symptoms and may even have anti tumor properties (5,6).

We are continuing to learn a ton about postbiotics and how they important they are for our health and homeostasis. Make sure you have a healthy and diverse microbiome, that you are feeding those microbes well, and that you have the right environment for healthy microbes to grow- and boom, your body will make these essential postbiotics for you.

Tip #2- Tending to your microbiome is a bit like farming, you need to seed it, feed it, and provide the right environment for the good microbes to grow. When it comes to seeding the right microbes it is important to either eat fermented foods daily, such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, miso, yogurt, or fermented veggies or take a researched and proven effective probiotic regularly (don’t waste your money with ones that do not have research behind them). I recommend people take specific probiotics a few months each year. Click here to see my favorites and 3 month microbiome protocol.

A short bit on stewed apples and short chain fatty acids

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#3- Female Hormonal Balance, Estrogen and The ESTROBOLOME

Bitesize #2 Your ESTROBOLOME impacts how much estrogen is in circulation in your body and in result influences how you feel month to month and during PUBERTY, POSTPARTUM, and PERIMENOPAUSE

Your gut is directly connected to your female hormones in several ways but one major way is through your ESTROBOLOME, which is part of your gut microbiome (7).            

This is some cool and simple science that relates to how you feel during your menstrual cycle each month AND how smoothly you transition from one hormonal phase into another (aka puberty, after having babies, perimenopause and menopause).    

In order to feel our best as women  we want estrogen in just the right amount at the right time.   Estrogen is made in many different areas of the body including in the ovaries. It is received all over the body (which is why we feely symptoms of estrogen imbalance all over our body) to do its many jobs. After, estrogen is detoxed in the liver and sent out with the bile to the gut to leave the system with our feces. The microbes that make up your estrobolome in your gut  impact how much estrogen moves out of your body and how much is reabsorbed back into the system, so how much estrogen you have at any given time.  It does this through making an enzyme (a postbiotic, see above) called betaglucaronidase that regulates how much estrogen is absorbed back into the bloodstream.  These microbes in your estrobolome also turn certain plant foods into phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) that help if there is too much estrogen or if there is too little estrogen (7).   

So the estrobolome  influences both if you are estrogen dominant or if you are low in estrogen, and in result influence all the symptoms that go along with those major imbalances (bloating, cramps, hot flashes, anxiety, sleep problems, tender breasts, etc).   

These microbes are incredible.   The Estrobolome is one thing we dig into and work on during the women’s hormone club every winter.       

You can actually test and see how robust and diverse your microbiome is, including seeing how your estrobolome is functioning. This is part of the Gut Zoomer at Vibrant Labs or the BiomeFx from Microbiome Labs, two labs that are doing incredible research into the gut microbiome.

Tip #3- One way to protect your microbiome is to set aside time every single to mindfully relax and reduce the stress coming in. Certain harmful bacteria only grow in a stressful environments and can cause a imbalance in your gut microbiome (growth of harmful microbes and inactivation of helpful microbes causing all sorts of downstream problems). So, start today, set aside at least 5 minutes every day for mindful relaxation- breathwork, guided imagery, walk quietly in nature, listen to a favorite calming song, take a bath, or………… Your Microbiome Will Thank You.



BITE SIZE #4 – The Microbiome and MOOD

“You simply cannot improve mood disorders without improving the gut. Your gut has at least 50% control over your mood” -Microbiologist and Microbiome expert Kiran Krishnan.

The new research around the microbiome and mood is the most exciting area of research to me right now. It’s a tough call between microbiome and immune health, hormones, endurance, and pain but I think mood is at the forefront of exciting new research. But the changes the people I work with feel in their mood as we optimize their gut is incredible and reflects the research.

The microbiome directly impacts your brain and mood, including anxiety, depression, stress response, brain inflammation, degenerative disease susceptibility, and day to day focus (9).

The gut talks directly to the brain and the brain also talks directly to the gut. We call that bi-directional communication. They impact each other. It goes both ways. This happens from the start of life all the way to the end of life. The more diverse your gut microbiome, especially with certain species, the better your mood and brain function. Did you know your gut is called your second brain?!

There are a lot of different ways that the microbiome specifically impacts mood but I am going to highlight just a few here.

  1. Your gut microbes impact your neurotrasmitters a few different ways. Serotonin is your happy neurotransmitter, dopamine is all about feeling good and Gaba helps you to feel calm (10). Many of your neurotransmitters are made by microbes in your gut or influenced by them. These are transferred from the gut to the brain through the vagus nerve. Your gut microbes also impact how precursors such as tryptophan convert to melatonin and serotonin. Furthermore on the flip side, there are specific microbes like Campylobacter that make neurotransmitters that actually create anxiety in your brain (10). You need the right microbes to get these neurotransmitters right.
  2. Your stress response and HPA axis is directly influenced by your gut microbes in a few different ways. When you have a diverse and robust microbiome you are able to return to calm quicker after any stress response (in other words, your microbes dictate how well you return back to rest/digest or if you stay in fight/flight after stress). Specific microbes in your gut are linked to a better stress response and less anxiety and depression by way of specific peptidoglycans (a post biotic) that the microbes make in your gut (9). This postbiotic was key to helping develop the brain and central nervous system in utero (so moms gut makes a difference). After birth this postbiotic is still important as research shows it helps reduce perceived stress and it also is what helps puts the brain into theta waves or ‘flow state’ (enhanced focus, reduced mental fatigue). It improves sleep and decreases cortisol. Wow!! I told you postbiotics were important and yes, we know what strains are important.
  3. LPS- Lipopolysaccharides are made by certain bacteria in your gut and do not cause a big problem when they stay in your gut (another postbiotic but this time a pesky one). However, when they leak through a leaky gut into the blood they are able to cross the blood brain barrier and increase neurotoxicity and brain inflammation and is a huge driver of all mood disorders(9). LPS in the brain also impacts how neurotransmitters like dopamine in the brain are received, it can block the receptor and this is huge for addiction (10). New research shows that LPS are also connected to alzheimers and parkinsons.

So, again, if you want to improve mood and brain function, don’t forget about your microbiome. And the cool thing, there is so much you can do!!!

Tip #4- Did you know that dirt actually helps improve the diversity of your microbiome. There is research that shows playing in the dirt can and does improve the diversity of your microbiome in your gut! That might look like organic gardening in your backyard, playing in the mud on a river trip, having a picnic out on the trail, doing yard work, climbing around rocks, building a fort out back, raking the leaves, or any way you can mess about on the earth/dirt (8). Yay! Play on.


STAY TUNED FOR MORE!!!!

Find my 4 month Microbiome support protocol probiotics/prebiotics here. I think most people could us a set 3 months each year to work on seeding and feeding their microbiome if they want to function and age their best.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7677487/– Article on Mucus membrane as a barrier function and the importance of the microbiome
  2. https://healthmeans.com/talk/6406?currentTime=0 – Leaky Gut, Endotoxemia, Inflammation and Microbiome Reconditioning. Dr. Kiran Krishan
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28956703/ – Research on the microbiome and the immune system
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/what-are-postbiotics
  5. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/postbiotics/
  6. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/postbiotics#health-benefits
  7. BiomeFx Lab Interpretation Guide. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5e8cc993f9169c7045248796/t/61730a83e0a05800d54c9c47/1634929286312/BFx+-+Interpretation+Guide-Digital.pdf
  8. Does soil microbiome contribute to gut microbiome? Pubmed article. PMID: 31450753
  9. The Gut-Brain Axis & the Psychobiome https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BexCxqoe1cE
  10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ec53P3M7ksQ– Mood disorders and your gut

Janel Ferrin Anderson FNLP, NC, DNM

Hello and welcome! I am Janel and I am obsessed with the science around how the human body functions and what impacts it. I help people use food and lifestyle to feel their best and to support short term and long term health. There is always a way to optimize how our unique body functions. Get curious with me. Learn more about me here and learn about working with me here

NEW AND IMPROVED FOUNDATIONS OF HEALTH COMING SOON!!! OPTIMIZE HOW YOU FUNCTION– ON HOLD FOR 2022

Women’s Hormone CLub 2023- 4th annual – JOIN US

Gas Or Bloating? Try This….

Gas and bloating are signs that something is off digestively.   


I find it most helpful to address and reverse WHY gas and bloating might be happening, but there are of course ways to reduce symptoms while working to reverse the root cause. 

What are some root causes of gas and bloating? 

  •  Insufficient digestive secretions such as enzymes, hydrochloric acid, bile. 
  • Bacteria that belong in the large intestine that have migrated and are living in the small intestine and fermenting certain sugars 
  • A bacterial or fungal overgrowth
  • Problems with motility (peristalsis or your migrating motor complex)
  • Eating too fast or swallowing air

There are a lot of ways to improve symptoms. Three things that can help while you explore and reverse WHY you might be experiencing gas and bloating are to try

  • eating more cooked vegetables instead of raw ones,
  • pureeing foods more,
  • using carminative tea. 

Cooking and pureeing veggies makes them easier to break down digestively. Some people need to avoid certain veggies until the imbalance is corrected but cooking and pureeing works for many, depending on the cause.

Here is a recipe for a yummy pureed Spring Asparagus soup that is loaded with veggies like asparagus, spring onions, cauliflower and spinach.

Here is a recipe for a delicious and pureed sweet potato soup.

These are both options during the spring cleanse, which is especially helpful if adding a lot of fiber from fruit and veggies is tough on your gut.

Here is a recipe for a tummy soothing carminative tea that can help reduce bloating.

When your body talks (aka signs and symptoms) it is telling you something, not working against you. Get curious!

A few things to notice and record if you experience gas and bloating are- When do the symptoms occur during the day? What makes them worse? What makes them better? When did they start? Are there certain foods that you can’t eat? How long after you eat do they occur? First thing in the morning? For women, are they cyclical? Do your symptoms occur with other symptoms? What does your poop look like? Any undigested food there? Are you eating when you are stressed?

Gut tests are also a great way to look into digestive health, gut inflammation, digestion secretions like bile, enzymes, hydrochloric acid, immune activation, microbes and more.

There are all sorts of fun details to dig into.

There is a lot you can do to bring balance back to your gut. And since gut imbalances can lead to all sorts of other problems, again, it is best to resolve what is driving them instead of just covering them up or living with them. I have seen people’s life change when they improve their gut.

Janel Ferrin Anderson FNLP, DNM, NC

5 Simple Ways To Support Digestion

What we eat has a huge impact on how we function and our health but equally important is how we break down those foods and how we absorb those foods. The best foods in the world can only work their magic if we are able to access and use the nutrients.

We now know that our food is way more than just calories. The foods we eat are information for every cell in our body and are what our cells need to grow healthy tissues, fire our nervous system properly, fight viruses and bacteria, grow bones, think clearly, detox chemicals/meds/hormones/etc, make enzymes/hormones/neurotransmitters, and so much more.

But first we need to properly break down our foods and then absorb our foods effectively. So many of us are not doing this efficiently and while this can prevent us from using all the nutrients improperly digested food can also cause acute problems such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, inflammation, and more. No thank you.

No matter what health issue you are working on, starting with the gut from top to bottom will support any/all of the work you do. No matter what fancy protocol you are following, gut function is key.


Here are 5 simple ways to enhance digestion so you can fully use all the nutrients you are eating to support your health today and for decades. Try adding a new one each week and see how your feel.

1.Breath 3-5 times before you eat. Taking the time to breath calmly before you eat impacts digestion in a few magnificent ways. We cannot digest our food when we are stressed. We need the parasympathetic part of our nervous system (aka rest and digest side) to be activated in order to secrete stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and bile, which are all needed to break down our food and absorb the nutrients in them. The time it takes to stop, slow down and breath also allows us time to smell our food which also activates digestive secretions and blood flow to the gut so we can properly break down our food. So many of us are rushing around throwing food into our mouth and not setting up the environment for digestion. (I even do this when I am eating on the trail and especially if I am ever eating at work or on the run.). So for a week try breathing 3-5 times before you eat and see how you feel.


2. Chew, Chew, Chew. Chewing is one of the first steps involved with digestion. Digestion is a cascade of events that relies on the completion of the steps before it. When you chew your body is queued to make secretions needed for digestion/absorption. The longer you chew the longer your body has to get ready for digestion and in addition, the longer you chew the greater the surface area of your food so these digestive juices can easily act upon it, breaking it down more effectively and efficiently. Chewing alone can relieve gas, bloating and abdominal pain for many. “Eat your drink and drink your food” is a quote I love and one that helps me remember how important it is to chew our food until it is liquid and soft (plus ‘chewing’ our liquids like smoothies allows our body time to release those important digestive secretions that it won’t release if you guzzle down your smoothie or juice too fast). Try counting how many times you chew each bite today and then try chewing until your food feels like a liquid. Try chewing 30-50 times and see how it feels. If you tune into how that feels it can become a habit to chew your food like that regularly and in result improve how your body functions and feels. And guess what, you can do this if you are eating on the trail too!


3. Drink raw fermented apple cider vinegar in water 20-30 minutes before you eat a meal, similarly lemon water works for this. The low pH of apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach encourages your stomach to produce hydrochloric acid, which is essential to break down proteins and to absorb important energy nutrients like iron and B12. Stomach acid also helps kill pathogens that enter through the mouth. It’s a common misconception that heartburn and GERD are symptoms of too much stomach acid, but in reality, these are typically an indication of not having enough stomach acid (PMID: 27574495). We want our stomach to be very acidic, around a pH of 1–2.  Start small but shoot eventually for 1-2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (or 1/2 a lemon) in 8 ounces of water 20-30 minutes before you eat. If you feel a warming under your ribs on the left side that means you can scale back or eliminate this as you have sufficient stomach acid. Although this is a gentle practice, if you have inflammation due to GERD or any issues with stomach acid please work with your healthcare provider.


4. Try herbal bitters with your meals. Herbal bitters are a wonderful addition to support digestion as they stimulate gastric juices such as hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes, and bile to support the breakdown and absorption of food. I like spraying bitters in my mouth or before a meal but my kids like spraying them in their water. You can take them with your food or after. They definitely live up to their name (they are super bitter) but as you reintroduce this important flavor back into your life they will become more tolerable. Bitters also support fewer sugar cravings. There are many wonderful small batch herbal bitters that you can find at farmers markets or in your local health food stores but I love the ones from Herb Pharm which come in a spray bottle for easy use. I love encouraging people to use these during our spring cleanse where we focus on loading up on fresh seasonal foods and elixirs to support our liver and our body’s ability to detox.


5. Stimulate your vagus nerve. Your vagus nerve is what controls your digestive juices and motility of your digestive system. We need it working properly in order to break down our foods and pass them through the system in a timely manner, we don’t want things moving too fast or too slowly (aka poop). We even rely on good vagal tone to keep the bacteria in our gut in the right places so they don’t cause problems elsewhere (aka bloating, burping, gas, etc). Low vagal tone has been implicated in everything from Parkinson’s, to bloating, constipation, Fibromyalgia, IBD, hormone problems and more. It is the biggest nerve in the body and communication goes both ways from your brain and gut and from your gut to your brain. If our gut is not happy it tells our brain and if our brain is stressed it impacts our gut. A few ways to easily tone your vagus nerve is to hum, sing, gargle, or chant every day. I try to hum every morning when I am filling up my lemon water and tea water. Deep breathing is another wonderful way to stimulate your vagus nerve. Monitoring your heart rate variability is a great way to tune into the health of your vagus nerve.


This is only a start but these 5 pack a big punch in supporting your body to digest and absorb the food you are eating better. In result YOU function better and address many annoying signs and symptoms.

The best foods in the world will not work and can even cause problems if you are not breaking them down effectively, absorbing them and moving things along in a timely manner. Plus, our digestive system is the gateway between the outside world and the inside world. It is directly connected to our immune system, our nervous system, and the health of every cell in our body. Poor digestion can be the cause of so many problems that don’t feel like they have anything to do with the digestive system (think headaches, fatigue, joint pain, hormone problems, insomnia and more).

This is one reason I love Functional Nutrition. We focus on the roots of health, the root cause of symptoms and HOW THE BODY IS FUNCTIONING, not just covering up symptoms. People often (and understandably) spend time chasing symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, insomnia, bloating, etc. Before you jump in on a fad diet or herb make sure your body is functioning. When you address the roots you can make an impact on the entire body. Using food and lifestyle to support the body to function its best is powerful way to optimize health no matter where you are in life or on the health spectrum or no matter what other medical therapy you are using. Starting with the basics- GUT HEALTH and DIGESTION– is one of the first steps for all of us.

Give these a try and let me know how it goes.

Join the SPRING CLEANSE and we will be adding all of these (along with loading up on nourishing foods to cleanse, detox, rejuvenate and release the heavy energy of winter).

Hope to see you soon.

Wildly, Janel

Janel Ferrin Anderson. NC, FNLP, DNM

Janel is a board certified nutrition consultant, a certified functional nutrition practitioner and has her doctorate in Natural Medicine. Janel is obsessed with helping people understand their body better and helping them get to the root of what is causing health problems. Using food, lifestyle, herbs, supplements and testing she helps people shift the terrain towards health.

http://mountainrebalance.com/?p=1884- SPRING CLEANSE WITH ME THIS APRIL
SEPTEMBER START 2022

Energy And Fatigue- 4 Considerations To Optimize Day To Day Energy

So many people that come to work with me struggle with low energy, despite looking like the image of health on the outside for some.

They are often told by their doctors that they look perfectly healthy, everything is great, maybe just depressed?

From a disease perspective I get it. No disease there. But from a health perspective there can be a lot going on and a lot to work with to turn the dial. When we consider that there is a spectrum of health, not just Diseased or Healthy, we find there is quite a bit we can do with food and lifestyle to turn the dial towards better health, function, and greater energy.

One of my missions is to fill the gap between disease and perfect health, empowering people learn about what is going on in their body and what they can do to optimize how they function not matter where they are on the spectrum of health. In our current healthcare system we are greatly missing the provider who can spend time with people, meeting them where they are at, listening to their story, educating them about how their body works and how disease and symptoms manifest, and supporting them to make changes to function better.

Nothing woo woo here, just systems biology coupled with modifiable lifestyle choices to improve how we feel and function and to address the root cause of symptoms.

Optimize Energy

When we look at how energy is made and what impacts it, there are 4 areas that stick out to me, as a functional nutritionist, where food and lifestyle can make a difference even for people already eating diverse whole foods.

  1. Blood sugar highs and lows
  2. Thyroid health and how the system is functioning
  3. Mitochondria and the nutrients needed to make energy (not just calories)
  4. The amount of Stress we are under, how we process that stress, and how our adrenals and HPA axis (hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal axis) are handling it

It is almost painful to omit DIGESTION from this list but for the sake of not beating a dead horse I will leave it out of the top 4 😉 . Of course eating enough food, sleeping, and moving regularly help here too. I wanted to address things people are not always thinking about.


1. Blood Sugar Regulation

Optimizing blood sugar is important for all of us, not just diabetics. So many of the people I work with are shocked how much this is impacting their energy on a day to day basis. I was even shocked when I tuned in to my blood sugar. Blood sugar is impacted by what we eat, when we eat, how much stress we have in our lives, how we move our body, how well we sleep, our estrogen (and how that changes at midlife), your microbiome, and more. Our blood sugar levels naturally go up and down during the day but we want hills, not mountains. What goes up will come down and often crashing down hard bringing with it symptoms of blood sugar imbalance such as: afternoon fatigue, sleepiness, cravings, anxiety, waking up in the middle of the night, headaches, irritability, and more. If you want to optimize your energy it is essential to optimize your blood sugar. Retraining your body to burn fat is a great way to do this as is balancing fat/fiber/protein at every meal and snack to minimize extreme highs and lows. Because blood sugar is so important for energy, sleep, and hormone balance we work on this in our 6 week Women’s Hormone Club, at the 10 week Foundations of Health, with my one on one clients, and of course at The Energy Club in the fall (optional CGM). How balanced is your blood sugar? Do you have any symptoms indicating you could use some work here? Tuning into your ups and downs during the day can be incredibly insightful to optimizing blood sugar and feeling more balanced energy.

One of my favorite ways to help balance blood sugar is getting enough protein for breakfast. I find most people miss this chance to manage blood sugar in a way that trickles down to the rest of the day.

image curtesy of Functional Nutrition Alliance

2. Thyroid Health

Our thyroid impacts our metabolism and how we use protein, carbs, and fat to make energy, it impacts our oxygen consumption, our sodium/potassium regulation, cardiovascular function, red blood cells, digestion, and is used by every cell in our body. 1, 2. If we do not have enough thyroid hormone or cannot properly use our thyroid hormone our entire body will slow down and fatigue is a common symptom. Our thyroid depends on clear communication between our brain and our thyroid (the HPT axis), it depends on having the proper nutrients to make thyroid hormones (which also includes how well we are digesting and absorbing those nutrients), on our microbiome to convert thyroid hormone to a usable form, if we have antibodies to our thyroid gland or antibodies to certain thyroid enzymes, and on our cell’s ability to receive and use thyroid hormone 3. If any part of the system is not functioning optimally, even if there is not a diagnosable disease to treat, or even if someone is taking thyroid hormone but not utilizing it well, energy will be impacted. Getting a clear idea of thyroid function and making sure your thyroid has what it needs to function is an important step to optimize energy and one that affects women considerably more than men. Even if your TSH looks perfect there could be more at play. Food and lifestyle are key players in the thyroid system (HPT) and getting a full thyroid panel is key if there are energy issues or any signs of a slow down in the body.

Some of my favorite thyroid supportive foods include- brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, kelp, eggs, and greens.

photo curtesy of Functional Nutrition Alliance

3. Mitochondria and the Nutrients Needed to Produce Energy

Our mitochondria are where energy is made in our body. We not only need fat, carbohydrates, and oxygen to make energy but we also depend on many other factors to keep the system pumping out ATP, the energy currency in our body. If we do not have enough of any of the following factors, energy production will be decreased, leaving us with less energy. This includes iron to help move oxygen from our lungs to our mitochondria, B vitamins to help the mitochondria convert carbs/fat into energy, and all 20 amino acids needed for coenzymes throughout the process. In the case of these three we depend not only on getting enough from our diet but also on digesting and absorbing them properly. If we do not have enough stomach acid or have any issues with the villi in our small intestine or have a lack of digestive enzymes or bile, we might have a hard time absorbing and digesting these critical nutrients even if we are consuming them. We also need plenty of antioxidants to maintain the integrity of the mitochondria, we need sufficient sulfur, CoQ10, Carnitine, N-acetyl cysteine, vitamin D, magnesium, fatty acids, and alpha lipoic acid for energy production, all coming from the foods we are or are not eating and how we are breaking them down. 4 5 6 Even heavy metals, mold, and toxins can impact our mitochondria 11. Do your mitochondria have what they need to function optimally? Are you sure?

4. Stress and how we are managing it

Every time we are faced with a stressor in life, either emotional, physical, nutritional, environmental, immune wise, from blood sugar swings, etc our hpa axis responds by releasing cortisol from the adrenal glands so our body is prepped to react. This is a great thing as we need cortisol for many reasons, unless is it kept in ‘ON’ mode for too long that is. Our brain does not differentiate if we are being chased by a tiger, are stressed about bills, are up late watching a suspenseful thriller, have a nutrient deficiency, are overtraining, have a chronic infection, mold exposure, or any other stress we might be facing. It is all stress on the body and is a bit of a mismatch between how we evolved and our current environment. Some stress is a good thing (hormesis) but too much stress can negatively impact the HPA axis or hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis 7 8. We are meant to handle stress but not a never ending onslaught of stressors 10 (allostatic load). In this case we might see dysregulated cortisol which can manifest as low energy in the morning (despite getting plenty of sleep) and low energy throughout the day, among other things signs of HPA axis dysregulation 8 9. Although ‘adrenal fatigue’ is outdated and not recognized as science based condition (the adrenals are not fatigued instead cortisol is regulated by the brain), hpa axis dysregulation is very real and can be a leading contributor to feeling low energy and fatigue 10. Removing what stressors we can and learning to process our emotional stress better are two important components to supporting the HPA axis and optimizing our energy during the day. Sometimes we need to do a little digging to figure out what is causing our stress response to be turned on chronically.

A couple of favorite herbs/foods to support stress management include sipping lemon balm tea, and taking Adaptogens like Reishi, Rhodiola, Maca and Ashwanganda.


If you are feeling less energy than normal there are ways to use food and lifestyle to support your body and increase your energy (Of course ruling out any serious condition with your physician is an important step).

Tracking is a great way to start tuning in to what is going on in your body. Start noticing and writing down when you feel good, when you feel low, what you are eating, your lifestyle choices during those times, known stressors, mood, poop, sleep, how much you are resting, etc. There are labs and tests that can help you dig deeper too, such as nutritional panels, a functional thyroid panel, serum labs such as iron/ferritin/vitamin D/magnesium, dried urine and salivary hormone tests, blood sugar monitoring, a continuous glucose monitor, organic acids tests, and more. Optimizing digestions is always important to make sure you are able to use the nutrients you are eating. Stay curious and reach out to a trusted wellness professional for help.


Digging deeper with functional labs can be extremely helpful if things feel off in your body. When we look at functional labs we are looking for optimal function instead of just for disease. Test don’t guess! Check out functional labs I often use for energy issues.


Some of my favorite functional booster foods to support optimal energy include

  • liver (supplement if you don’t want to eat organ meat)
  • maca powder
  • alfalfa
  • cordyceps
  • sprouts (broccoli, alfalfa, mung, etc)
  • bee pollen, royal jelly, and honey
  • beet juice
  • nuts and seeds
  • sweet potatoes
  • mct oil
  • green tea
  • sea vegetables

What do you do to optimize your energy?

And if it is just a rest day you need, by all means, REST UP. xo Janel

This is intended to serve as education regarding food and lifestyle to support health. It is not meant to treat or diagnose any health condition. Please consult your physician with any health issues.

Check out my blog and video on MAPPING ENDURANCE through a functional lens. I list my favorite trail foods as well as functional labs relevant to energy there too!

Resources

Janel Ferrin Anderson FNLP NC DNM

Janel works with people one and one and in group settings out of her office in Truckee/Tahoe. She helps people better understand what is going on in their body and explores with them how to use food and lifestyle to optimize health. Janel is a board certified nutrition consultant, a certified functional nutrition and lifestyle practitioner and has her doctorate in natural medicine. She is endlessly interested in WHY things function the way they do.

Every Fall- The Energy Club
Foundations of Health- 10 weeks
Spring Cleanse with us
Join the Healing Foods Club!
Women’s Hormone Club

Booking Provided by Healthie

Smoothie Time

I love smoothies for easy, fast, and nutrient dense snacks and meals. But, be warned, all smoothies are not created the same.

You want to make sure you are not getting a dessert in a cup, which many of them are.

How do you do this?

Make sure you are getting good protein (around 20-30 grams), a healthy fat (from mct oil, nut butter, or find others on my smoothie guide), not too much sugar and some fiber too (nuts, seeds, fruit, veggies, etc). This combo will ensure you are satiated and that your blood sugar does not spike. These spikes then come crashing down causing all sorts of problems systemically and can bring on symptoms such as bonking in the afternoon, anxiety, problems sleeping, daytime sleepiness, and more. Yuck. These highs/lows can also impact hormones and cause problems with sleep too. Most people I know do not have time for any of that.

We want to drink smoothies that are loaded with nutrients, support our health, and give us long lasting and balanced energy.

Use my smoothie guide below to formulate your own or check out my recipes.

DELICIOUS and health promoting smoothies are easy to make in a flash.

You can download my printable smoothie guide here so you can create your own favorites at home

Here are 5 of our FAVORITE smoothie recipes and you can access these recipes here

Recipes in the packet include-

  • My favorite everyday blueberry smoothie (this recipe is from my sister Brittany about 15 years ago that I still love)
  • Golden Recovery smoothie for after you crush it in the mountains or gym
  • Favorite everyday chocolate Smoothie which is awesome for your gut, your hormones, and overall health
  • My kids favorite strawberry protein smoothie
  • A great cherry and lemon spring cleansing smoothie
  • A green smoothie bowl for when you crave using a spoon and want some crunch

Can you find the protein and fats in all these smoothies? Are you including enough of these important macros in your smoothies? Use the smoothie guide above to buff yours out.


I would love to hear about your favorite smoothies! Share with me on instagram @mountainrebalance or leave in the comments below.



Janel Ferrin Anderson FNLP, NC, DNM

Janel loves helping people understand their physiology better and supporting them to use food and lifestyle to function their best. Learn more about Janel here and more about the groups she leads here. Janel is a board certified Nutritionist and certified functional nutrition and lifestyle practitioner out of Tahoe.

Endurance, Through a Functional Lens

Talking about fueling for endurance sports is about so much more than what to eat or drink during an activity. Well, that is if you care about health as well as performance anyway.

Although I am not a specific sports nutritionist or sports coach, I am an endurance athlete and a functional nutritionist that has worked with hundreds of athletes around optimizing how their unique body functions, including optimizing digestion, immune function, hormone health, energy challenges, sleep issues, mental health issues, injuries that won’t heal, and more. When we work from a grassroots level, focusing on the individual, it is amazing how people become more resilient and endurance ability improves as their body starts to function optimally.

Looking at Endurance through a functional lens helps us to see that above any protocol or plan, we bring our unique selves to the training formula and as it turns out that is the most important consideration.

It is crazy how varied the claims are about training and fueling and it’s no wonder so many people are left confused.

One side claiming keto is the most efficient. another side saying it’s dangerous and claiming we need fast carbs continuously. Intermittent fasting and fasted runs are either the best or the worst approach. Sports gels and gues are one man’s ticket to victory and another persons ticket to diarrhea. One woman claims high intensity interval workouts are most important while her best friend swears by long and slow workouts.

What if I told you they are all correct?

The truth is you need to find what’s right for you and your unique biology along with your unique goals. As Andrea Nakayama says, “nutrition is not just a handout”.

The key finding what is right for you is considering a systems biology perspective. When you do this you will be less likely to miss any key areas that might be keeping you back from performing your best AND you will support the proper body systems to ensure endurance activities don’t lead to long term health problems at the same time.

My sports fuel theory has always been ‘drink enough, eat enough, and refill after’. This seemingly over simplistic approach only makes sense after we look at Endurance functionally. (See my favorite trail foods below too though)

The basis of functional nutrition is considering what makes each person unique, considering all the body systems and how they interact, seeing each of our symptoms as something our body is trying to tell us, understanding that everything we do impacts how we function (including our mindset), looking for the root cause of symptoms instead of covering them up, and using food and lifestyle to optimize how a person functions now and in the future.

A big part of this is learning to track your unique body and learning to tune in and listen to what it is saying before it has to speak too loudly. See my favorite ways to do this below.

Signs you might have some work to do optimizing how you function-

Not having perfect poops every single day? Having any digestive problems? Or having problems sleeping? Any issues with your immune system? Experiencing energy ups and/or downs? Anxiety? Brain fog? Fatigue? Injuries not healing? Lacking strength? Not recovering well? These are all signs that need your attention if you want to perform your best or if you want to feel your best in 10, 20, 30+ years from now.

Have a listen/watch!

Listen to the discussion I had with my guru and teacher extraordinaire (I will be honest, she is my cerebral girl crush), Andrea Nakayama, about this topic. You can download the filled out matrix here as well to help you think into this systems based and empowering approach to endurance. It can be your trail map to using functional nutrition for health.


In my discussion with Andrea we talk about physiology and research around all the following functional topics and how they relate to Endurance

  • Mediators– what positively or negatively impacts endurance ability?
  • Digestion/Absorption (how endurance sports impact our gut and how our gut impacts our performance). We might have to do another entire talk on this one as it is so important.
  • The microbiome (so much great research around how our microbiome can specifically support our endurance efforts and vice versa. A healthy microbiome = health).
  • Immune function (long intense exercise impacts our immune function so how do we support our body so we stay resilient and strong. Plus, what is the difference between acute and chronic inflammation)
  • Energy production, how mitochondria function, fuel sources, and the aerobic vs anaerobic pathways
  • We dig into hormones and neurotransmitters including our stress hormone cortisol, thyroid hormones (so important for energy production and often overlooked and misunderstood), and sex hormones (because our monthly cycle is our 6th vital sign ladies!).
  • The value of high intensity training, strength training, mobility, and aerobic base training (which is the best? learn why we do them and you decide. I say include them all).
  • We run out of time but touch on mindfulness, community and staying positive (this is such a huge part of endurance so we may need to do another talk just about mental endurance and the power of our mind)
  • We talk about fueling and hydration tips also

Here is the completed functional matrix for Endurance Athletics- Loads of fun here to think about

Download the completed copy of the Matrix on Endurance here


Some of my favorite functional ways to track your unique body, to “look under the hood” so to speak, include-

  • Continuous blood glucose monitor or finger prick blood sugar monitor
  • An Organic Acids Test to look into fat/carb metabolism, nutrient levels, oxidative stress, mitochondria function, exposure to toxins and mold, gut dysbiosis, and neurotransmitters
  • A full functional thyroid lab to look in to the HPT axis
  • A saliva cortisol test to get a better look at you HPA axis
  • A gut zoomer to look into digestion, absorption, gut inflammation, the integrity of the gut wall, the diversity of microbes, or if there are any gut infections
  • Ketone meter to see if you are using fatty acids for energy
  • Nutrient panels to see if you are burning through any nutrients or needing to boost certain ones
  • Functional blood serum labs to get an overall picture of how your body systems are functioning
  • A urine hormone panel to look at sex hormones, sleep hormones, neurotransmitters, metabolites
  • Heart rate variability via a watch or Oura ring (my favorite way)
  • Basal body temperature to track your thyroid and ovulation/progesteron
  • Heart rate chest strap to measure your heart rate at different intensities
  • Genetics, when indicated

And footnote- don’t be surprised if your doctor isn’t interested in this testing as to them you seem to be in perfect health. The thing is, perfect health is not the only other option than diseased/medicated. The truth is there is a huge spectrum in the middle and we are talking about optimizing that. Find someone who will help you.

Did I mention that I love data? Become your own scientist!

There is a lot we can learn from just tracking our body with a pen and paper (or fancy app) too



A few of my favorite foods to fuel long endurance adventures include

  • Boiled potatoes and salt (always)
  • White rice and bacon squares (this is what I am eating in this picture and as you can see it brings me a lot of joy on the trail:) Ymmm)
  • Salted nuts and raisins
  • Nut butter
  • Avocados and bean burritos
  • Homemade cookies, bars, gummies (you can download a few of my favorite recipes below)
  • Dried dates and mango sticks
  • Honey sticks and other bee products like royal jelly and propolis
  • Puréed sweet potatoes and applesauce
  • Olives and soft stick beef jerky (seriously)
  • ginger chews
  • Packaged foods and hydration that I like- Scratch Labs electrolytes, LMNT electrolytes, Trail Butter, Spring gels, Rx bars, Snickers, Honey Stinger gluten free waffles, Amy’s gluten free bean burrito (this one warms up great in the pack all day;)), Kion Aminos
  • Pre endurance adventure foods– about 2 hours before I head out I love to eat sourdough toast with almond butter and bananas or a bowl of hot millet cereal with maple syrup and walnuts. 30 minutes before heading out I drink a scoop of amino acids in water (I try to do it again every 90 minutes or so).
  • Post endurance adventure foods- I always eat some carbs and protein within 30 minutes of finishing up on the trail. That often includes a mango and protein smoothie or my superfood recovery smoothie.

CHECK OUT SOME OF MY FAVORITE RECIPES FOR TRAIL FOODS AND PRE/POST ADVENTURES HERE

What are some of your favorite trail foods? I would love to hear. Share below or on instagram @mountainrebalance


A few of my favorite books and tools for training functionally include-

Above all else, Functional Nutrition teaches us to be curious about our body and what is going on before it has to talk too loudly. Enjoy the trail and as Thick Nhat Hahn says “Kiss the earth with every step”

Janel Ferrin Anderson DNM FNLP NC

Janel is obsessed with helping people understand their unique body and figure out how their food and lifestyle choices impact their health. Janel helps people explore the root cause of signs and symptoms and how to tune into what their body is saying. Janel is a board certified nutritionist, a certified functional nutrition practitioner, has her doctorate in natural medicine, and is a certified family herbalist. She is a passionate mountain athlete, food junkie, and science nerd. Janel works one on one with clients and teaches many groups. Learn more about Janel here

Badass For The Long haul (currently being reorganized)


Studies and Research from my talk-

Healing Foods Club

Get all the information you need to prepare and use ‘Food as Medicine’ and enjoy your kitchen in magnificent and health promoting new ways. This is for anyone looking to find joy in their kitchen as they cook for health and dig deeper into nutrients, frameworks, superfoods, and “food as medicine”.

This is a one stop shop loaded with support to empower you to use food, drinks, and herbs for health and enjoyment. It goes from simple daily salads and roasted veggies to week long anti-inflammatory meal plans, to healing elixirs, videos and recipes on making fermented sauerkraut, broths, sprouts, and so much more.

The Healing Foods Club is simple to use and will meet you where you are. It includes –

  1. RECIPE BOOKS INCLUDING ONES FOR SPECIFIC HEALTH GOALS
  2. PRINTABLE TOOLS TO HELP MAKE USING FOOD AS MEDICINE EASY
  3. NUTRIENT AND INGREDIENT INFORMATION
  4. VIDEOS ON HOW TO MAKE SOME OF THE MOST HEALING FOODS

Recipe Books

  • Get dozens of beautiful recipe books loaded with clean recipes and information around specific themes and health issues
  • Themes include clean recipes and nutrients to support healing after surgery, to support cardio health, a paleo plan, immune health, hormone balance, pescatarian recipes, 7 day anti-inflammatory elimination menu and recipes, snacks, breakfasts, seasonal guides, gut healing gaps recipes, mocktails, sauces, seasonal elixirs (my favorite), athletic fuel, low sugar anti-candida and keto treat recipes, and more.

Printables

  • Get a file of easy to print-out guides to support ease and health in your kitchen. This is one of my favorite things about the healing foods club.
  • These tangible tools include Building a Plate, Rainbow Foods Checklist, Packing Kids Lunches, a Smoothie Guide, a meal plan organizer, Nutrient Dense Foods to Focus On, an Eating For Health Grocery List, tricks for making things easier in the kitchen, and more

Nutrient Information

  • Loads of valuable information about using food as medicine and being empowered around ingredients and nutrients.
  • Get access to information on nutrients such as Zinc, B vitamins, learn about healthy fats, alternative sweeteners, where troublesome ingredients might be hiding, gluten facts, how much protein you might need for your unique body, foods for anxiety, foods high in essential nutrients, my favorite superfoods and how to use them (another favorite), guidelines on specific therapeutic diets, helping empower your kids to make healthy choices, favorite herbs, and more

Short Instructional Videos and Demos

  • These short and simple videos demonstrate tips and techniques while walking you through how to prepare the most important healing foods around
  • I am adding to these regularly!! Try one a month with me. Videos include how to grow sprouts, make nut milks, juice in a blender, brew herbal teas, make bone broth, veggie broths, sourdough, fire cider, yogurt, microbiome supports, elderberry syrup, how to roast veggies, and more

Support in organizing and preparing your kitchen and cooking tools

  • Learn what my favorite kitchen supplies are for using food as medicine. Organize your kitchen with me!! Pictures, descriptions, etc

This is all done on your own time at your own pace and you can come back to this for years. With more being added over the year you will always have more to try. Plus, it is all in one easy place to find!

Optional Facebook Group coming soon to stay connected with others in this community and share ideas, successes, recipes, techniques, and look for inspiration and support.

Gain instant access to The Healing Foods Club now for just $75

or

The Healing Foods Club is free with the 10-week Foundations Of Health Program

Women in the Women’s Hormone Group can get The Healing Foods Club for 50% off. Ask me for your coupon

25% off During the month of DECEMBER!!! Use coupon code HOLIDAYBLISS at checkout

Whichever way you get it, it is yours for the long haul and I am regularly adding to it. You don’t want to miss this one stop shop!

Here are a few of the hundreds of recipes to try in the recipe section-


Janel Ferrin Anderson NC FNLP DNM

Janel is obsessed with helping people understand how food and lifestyle impact the physiology of their body. Janel is a science nerd with a passion for good food, leaning into the seasons, and playing hard in the wild. Join her in using Food as Medicine, for the body and the soul. Janel is a board certified nutritionist, a certified functional nutrition practitioner, she has her doctorate in natural medicine and is a certified family herbalist and ayurvedic yoga therapist.

Leaning into all the goodness of autumn– Don’t miss this blog with recipes, traditions, women, and more


Get inspiration for making the winter holidays feel peaceful and joyful. Check out this blog about 14 unconventional gift ideas that are meaningful and health promoting.


Foundations of Health– More info here
Women’s Hormone Club- More info here

Autumn Love – Food, Energy, Ritual, Women, Treats, And The Kitchen

I have always loved the crisp air, warm spices, comforting foods, grounding energy, and the return to routine that autumn brings.

As I sit here at my computer I can almost hear the crunch and smell the earthy leaves of fall. The days are slowly getting shorter but the sun still shines brightly and lasts just long enough for sport practices and a short walk after work. It is the season of harvest, preparing for the winter, and even some lunchtime trail rides with the kids back at school. Tapping in to the energy of the season is a wonderful and important way to connect to the rhythm that we have evolved for thousands of years to be in synch with and fall is one of my favorite times to do this.

In the autumn I am immediately drawn to my kitchen as it feels grounding after the endless light and go of summer. The slightly cooler and darker evenings quietly beckon me back in. I now crave this return to the kitchen. Fall foods are comforting, warming and cozy. We brew up warm soups and stews that cook for hours and fill the kitchen with mouth watering smells all afternoon. These longer cooked dishes are wonderful for gut health as they are easier to break down and give the gut a bit of a rest. Plus, we use quite a bit of bone broth as a base which has healing gelatin, collagen and minerals. In different ancient healing practices around the world this grounding in the fall is important to balance the dry, windy, and transitional energy of the fall. With the right lifestyle and eating changes we can feel nourished by the fall instead of depleted. I find this to be true for me and am happy to bring my energy down into my roots this time of year and ground into the season.


Apples

I love when I get to pick my own apples but regardless we try to see how many different varieties of apples we can taste and cook with each fall. Stewed apples with cinnamon are one of my favorite gut healing treasures in the fall. The fiber in apples feed our good bacteria in the gut and they produce metabolites that heal our gut wall, talk to our immune system (which is really important in the fall), and even talk to our brain. We eat these stewed apples many mornings and in the afternoon with a sprinkle of chia seeds and hemp seeds and even some mct oil for a good fat. Apples rank at the top of foods with phenolic antioxidants making them high in antioxidants and especially cancer fighting quercetin. My 10 year old Clay loves to bake spicy apple crisp and even makes it gluten free for me to enjoy. Gretal loves baked apples with cinnamon, coconut sugar, and walnuts. I love making spiced gluten free apple cake and John’s heart lies with an almond and cranberry apple pie. But really, is there anything easier and more delicious than sliced apples with cinnamon?


Stirring My Brew (aka spicy chai)

There is not much more that says fall in our family than a brewing pot of chai on the stove. It lures people out of their rooms and into the kitchen to comment year after year “ah, it smells like fall”. The spices of chai are warming to the body and the soul. Cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, cloves, and pepper. All full of healing nutrients to boot (see below). We brew these spices for an hour and then add black tea for a few minutes and strain. After we pour this into anxiously awaiting mugs we add honey and a splash of milk of choice (some like coconut, some cashew, and others full fat cows milk) and savor each cozy and warming sip.


Fall Ritual- Prepping for winter

There are years I am better at preserving foods than others. Sometimes I jar tomatoes or chop and freeze squash, green beens, berries, etc but what I am most consistent with is prepping my fall and winter supply of Fire Cider. I love this ritual. People have been enjoying the immune support and digestive support of fire cider for decades. I love this kind of preserving because there are no rigid rules or formulas. Once you do it a few times you can change it up, add different ingredients or change up the quantities to your liking. My favorite recipes are part of the Healing Foods Club . Making Fire Cider is affordable and rewarding. I take a shot of this fire cider in warm water every morning as part of my morning fall/winter ritual to support my gut, my immune system, and my morning energy.


Letting Go

The fall reminds us that it is okay to let go of what does not serve us or what has transitioned on. As I watch the beautiful golden and red leaves fall to the earth I am reminded to let go. Just when the world is so supremely beautiful, with the snow on the mountains and the bright leaves on the aspens, it is time to let go. All things have their time. Their seeding, their growing, their burning bright, their clinging, their letting go, their becoming one with the earth, and then the seed again. Our crazy world today allows us to think we can have it all all the time but leaning into the seasons reminds us of the importance of the cycle and also gives us a chance to slow down, release, enjoy what is right in front of us. I use my breath, specifically my exhale, as much as I can to release what is not serving me, even if I want to cling to it forever. I use my inhale to feel gratitude for all that I have and love. It is a practice every day as I am far from perfect at this. But one breath at a time…..


The Female Cycle and The Seasons

I love teaching the Women’s Hormone Club and one of my favorite parts is when we go into the different energies of the female cycle. When we tap into the different hormones that are present during each phase of our monthly cycle we often notice that there is a time of the month that we feel more driven, a time we feel more social, a time we feel more introspective, a time we feel like planning, and a time we feel quieter. When we put that cycle over the time frame of the year there is a similar pattern for the seasons of the year. The fall is the time associated with the luteal phase in a woman’s cycle. The time after ovulation when progesterone rises, bringing with it a feeling of calm and going inside oneself a bit more, a coziness, and preparing for what is to come. Do you feel this shift? Or is it at a different season for you?


Trick or Treats

As a nutritionist, some of the candy and food coloring that comes along with Halloween drives me nuts. I have learned that having some treats around the house this time of year that I feel better about curbs the craving to get ravenous around some of the scarier options out there. Some of our favorites are making chocolate mint, chocolate peanut butter, and lemon coconut cups. Another favorite is gluten free pumpkin squares with cream cheese frosting (I also love these as muffins without frosting). These are delicious and remind me of growing up! Another thing I try to do is load the kids and adults up on plenty of protein rich foods before they snack on treats so they do not eat candy when they are hungry. Do you have a trick to keep a happy or balanced relationship with the treats of halloween?

chocolate mint cups RECIPE

RECIPE FOR GLUTEN FREE PUMPKIN SQUARES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Fall Foods and Spices

Foods that are in season in the fall include- pumpkins, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, chard, apples, broccoli, sweet potatoes, kale, mushrooms, cabbage, fall squash, grapes, pomegranate and more. Download my cozy fall recipe book loaded with clean recipes here and share what fall foods you love to cook in your kitchen. Check out my blog and Instagram for more seasonal recipes too. My seasonal elixir guide is part of the Healing Foods Club. Classic fall spices incude-

  • Ginger – is a wonderful spice for digestion, it reduces nausea, is anti-inflammatory, and has anti-microbial properties
  • Cardamom -may help to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and protect against cancer
  • Cinnamon – may help with blood sugar balance and downstream hormone balance
  • Cloves – may also help regulate blood sugar, reduce inflammation, protect against cancer, and support the liver health


Harvest

I grew up celebrating harvest on the farm and now have a small backyard garden to work and enjoy. I love taking the time to harvest what we have put energy and intention into. This is true for harvesting food but also harvesting ideas, plans, emotions, relationships, work, etc. In the spring we consider what seeds we want to plant, how we will feed and water them, and then in the fall I try to reflect on how things have been going and celebrate the work I have done. This has become a wonderful ritual in the fall for me. I consider how my heart feels, how my body feels, and how my brain feels this time of year and celebrate all that has grown and honor what I have learned so far in the year.


Fall Play


All of this and we haven’t even talked about Thanksgiving yet! I suppose that is for another time. 

Sing up for the Healing Foods Club here.
More information is here
This is included with Foundations of Health

Stewed Apples For Your Gut And Your Immune System

I wish there was a recipe that was delicious, that warmed my heart and soul, was easy to make, supported my gut health, and benefited my immune system.

Oh wait, there is, and it is the perfect time of year for it. Stewed apples!

Here is the cool thing, the “good” microbes in your gut eat the fibers from apples and produce short chain fatty acids. These short chain fatty acids are signaling molecules, they talk to other cells in our body and tell them what to do. These short chain fatty acids are critical in maintaining our gut integrity while also talking directly to our immune system. They actually turn off and on immune cells. With around 80% of our immune system in our gut these microbial metabolites have a huge impact on how our immune system functions.

So we need to both seed plenty of good, diverse and health promoting bacteria in our gut and we need to feed those bacteria specific foods so they can do their work. This is a key part of health for all humans at all phases of life and one that impacts almost every part of the body.

Fall foods tend to be cooked longer, and include soups and stews. These foods are often more gentle on the digestive tract as they are easier to break down. People with digestive issues often benefit from from cooking their foods a bit before they eat. Some of the most therapeutic diets for gut health include only cooked and soupy foods while the gut heals.

Check out my impromptu youtube video about why I love stewed apples for gut and immune health below.

I get to work with a lot of people that have gut issues, hormone issues, problems with energy, headaches, anxiety, sleep, etc. Doing deep work to improve the integrity of the gut and the diversity of healthy bacteria can impact all of these areas as the microbiome again, impacts so many if not all body systems.

How can you impact this?

One easy way to do this is to eating foods with specific fibers that support healthy bacteria in the gut! Stewed apples, homemade hummus, and my morning psyllium/flax drink are powerful ways to do this. But eating more quantity of and more diverse fiber from any fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, or legumes is great too. You know, the rainbow.

Eat up! Janel


See references below

Download my printable recipe for stewed apples here

Watch my instructional video about how to make stewed apples (from The Healing Foods Club and Foundations of Health)



Recipe For Delicious and Easy Stewed Apples-

Ingredients

  • 6 Apples (sweet variety so you don’t need sweetener, organic )
  • 1/2 cupWater
  • 1/2 cupOrganic Raisins (optional addition for sweetness and fiber)
  • 2 1/2 tsps Cinnamon
  • Optional-
  • 1 tbsp Ground Flax Seed
  • 1 tbsp Chia Seeds ((or hemp seeds, sunflower, pumpkin, walnuts, etc))
  • 1 tbsp Mct Oil

Directions

  1. Peel, core, and slice apples
  2. Place all ingredients in saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, give or take.
  3. Cook until soft
  4. Smash or crush the apples together with cinnamon and raisins if adding.
  5. Scoop desired amount into bowl. Eat warm or chill in fridge and enjoy cold.
  6. Optional- Add MCT oil and mix up. Sprinkle ground flax and ground chia or other boosters on top. ENJOY (your gut will too)
Clay on apple duty, he is making a crisp here with the sour apples. We use sweet apples for stewed apples

Research and References

  1. Gonçalves P, Araújo JR, Di Santo JP. A Cross-Talk Between Microbiota-Derived Short-Chain Fatty Acids and the Host Mucosal Immune System Regulates Intestinal Homeostasis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2018 Feb 15;24(3):558-572. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izx029. PMID: 29462379.
  2. Morrison DJ, Preston T. Formation of short chain fatty acids by the gut microbiota and their impact on human metabolism. Gut Microbes. 2016;7(3):189-200. doi:10.1080/19490976.2015.1134082
  3. Davani-Davari D, Negahdaripour M, Karimzadeh I, et al. Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods. 2019;8(3):92. Published 2019 Mar 9. doi:10.3390/foods8030092
  4. Great podcast interviewing microbiome research and gut expert Kiran Krishnan on immune health and the gut

Janel Ferrin Anderson NC FNLP

Hello! I am a functional medicine nutritionist and helping people understand how food and lifestyle impact health and physiology is my jam. I work with people one on one and in group settings to optimize health. Learn more about me here


Healing Foods Club (included with Foundations of Health)

What’s up with GLUTEN?

There is no one-size-fits-all diet that is perfect for everyone. Depending on our gut integrity, the balance of our microbiome, our digestive resilience (how are digestive enzymes and secretions are working), our genetics, and our immune function, each of us is impacted by food differently.

Gluten is a hot topic these days and it can be confusing for even the most well informed human. I personally have started and stopped this post at least 100 times. But as a nutrition educator and functional nutritionist it is my goal to help people understand how their unique body interacts with food, without over reacting or with out missing something that might be causing problems.

The truth is there are several different ways gluten can impact people and we are learning more and more about it as new research and studies are done. It is still an evolving topic but certain things have become more clear. This is my attempt to sort it out in a clear way, with out going down too many rabbit holes.

Whenever things are confusing I enjoy taking things back to physiology, where the environment meets our unique body. Let’s look at a few different ways gluten can impact our physiology, depending on each person-


First off, what is gluten? Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, barley, spelt, semolina, wheatberries, and rye. It is in many processed foods as well including soy sauce, salad dressings, spices, canned soups, sauces, boullion and in many more sneaky places. Wheat is actually composed of 4 classes of proteins; albumins, globulins, gliadins, and gluten’s, which together are known as prolamins or gluten. We know of 62 peptides and other constituents that can trigger a response from wheat.

What are different ways people can negatively respond to gluten?

  1. An IgE response, or a wheat allergy. An allergy to wheat can be tested by a skin prick or blood test and has been tested and used since the mid 1900s in the medical world. An IgE reaction is an immune reaction that activates IgE antibodies against wheat. So when wheat is consumed, it is broken down in the digestive systems and absorbed into the bloodstream in the small intestine. From there, in people with an allergy to wheat, the immune system sees it and produces IgE antibodies that attack it and cause a reaction in the body. Back when allergies were discovered medically, they only looked at IgE reactions, which is why today that is still what is referred to as a true allergy. IgE antibodies are only one of five different antibodies in the immune system (we also have IgA, IgM, IgG, and IgD antibodies).
  • Symptoms that might occur with a wheat allergy include stuffy nose, headache, itchy eyes, cramps, diarrhea, hives, swelling, or anaphylaxis.

2. Celiac Disease– Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease and gluten is the trigger. An autoimmune disease is where the immune system mistakenly attacks and damages healthy body tissues (3). In the case of celiac disease, the immune system attacks the villi in the small intestine, where we absorb our nutrients. In this case, it is the IgA antibodies, that are abundant in your gastrointestinal tract to protect you, that are activated and involved (remember? your immune system makes IgE, IgM, IgA, IgG and IgD antibodies to protect you). And, surprisingly, only about 10% of people with celiac disease have digestive symptoms (9 ). In order to get a medical diagnosis of celiac disease there has to be total atrophy (destruction) of the villi in the small intestine. However, this process takes many years of damage and by discovering the reaction early one can prevent the damage from occurring. There have been problems in properly diagnosing Celiac in the past, with many false negatives, but we now have a good way to detect the immune reaction before it is left to destroy healthy intestinal tissue. Labs such as Vibrant Wellness, Cyrex, and Doctors Data have a gluten test that look at various IgA reactions to many different proteins in wheat, including gluten, before it fully damages the small intestine.

  • Symptoms that may occur with celiac disease include anemia, fatigue, nausea, joint pain, skin rashes, brain fog, gas, bloating, thinning hair, abdominal pain, trouble absorbing nutrients, osteoporosis, and more

3. Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity- Non celiac gluten sensitivity can be tricky to diagnose and study as the biomarkers are not a perfect indicator, but they are getting better (6). This is also testing antibodies against various parts (peptides) of gluten and include IgA and IgG antibodies. The tests for celiac disease can give us an idea of gluten sensitivities also. According to brain expert Dr. David Perlmutter MD, non celiac gluten sensitivity is not only very real but very common (2). Clinically speaking, there are significant findings and clear impacts.

  • Symptoms of non celiac gluten sensitivity can vary from intestinal problems to systemic problems including neurological ones (brain fog, headaches, anxiety, attention problems, etc), dermatological (skin rashes, etc), hormonal problems (thyroid, blood sugar, etc), rheumatoid (joint and body pains), and more.

4. Wheat is difficult to digest for all humans (5). The protein gliadin specifically, is inflammatory and can cause damage to the digestive lining including direct irritation and inflammation that loosens the tight gap junctions leading to leaky gut, and all downstream problems associated with leaky gut or hyperpermeable membranes in all humans (5, 4). Leaky gut is one of the major triggers to any/all autoimmune diseases (11) and chronic inflammation. Research also suggests this leakiness is not just in the gut but can also creates a leaky blood/brain barrier (10) impacting mental health. Other digestive problems include: the lectins, also the enzyme inhibitors, the phytic acid, and the saponins that are found in grains that make them hard to digest. Another digestive problem with wheat is the hybridization of gluten, leading to new proteins that our bodies have a hard time recognizing and breaking down. The New ways in which the wheat is grown, harvested, processed, stored, and prepared all contribute to the problem. This interaction with the small intestine lining is what can also lead to the right condition for autoimmune disease to develop. These new proteins, according to expert Andrea Nakayama, also have similar amino acid sequences that resemble various tissues in the body which can even impact how our immune system reacts to our own body (cell mimicry).


5. Wheat is is often loaded with the chemical glyphosate which is inflammatory on its own and does great damage to the gut microbiome and in result many body systems including brain health and immune function (12).


6. FODMAPS– Gluten and FODMAPS are not directly related but there is a big crossover worth discussing quick. Fodmaps, or Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols are short chain carbohydrates that can be fermented by bacteria in the intestines, causing gas, pain, diarrhea, etc. Gluten is not a fodmap but there are fodmaps in gluten containing foods. This is why when people travel to Europe, sometims gluten does not impact them. They are possibly responding the different FODMAPS in the gluten there, regardless if they are responding to wheat proteins or not. In this case it is a carb issue, aside from the potential wheat protein issue.


7. Opioid Effects – For some people, gluten can have an opioid effect on the brain (1). These people have enzymes in their gut that break gluten down into opioids that act like a heroin or morphine reaction (called exorphins or gluteomorphins) (10). These people have an extremely hard time breaking up with gluten and actually have withdrawal from gluten. These opioid substances can interfere with neurotransmitters in the brain as well, creating diverse downstream mood problems.



So, while the research is still emerging, it is clear that for many people, gluten can be the root cause of chronic inflammation (including all downstream problems), gut damage, mental health problems, skin issues, absorption problems, autoimmune problems, and other immune issues- even if you do not notice acute problem digestively with gluten. I have seen the strangest symptoms resolve after people go gluten free. For some it happens right away, for others it can take months or even years, depending.

If you are someone in perfect health- meaning you sleep well and wake rested, have great energy, poop everyday, nothing hurts, your skin is radiant, your immune system is in balance, you have mental clarity, have no genetic predisposition to autoimmune issues or degenerative diseases, are in good mental health, and with no seasonal allergies- then gluten might not be an issue for you at all. Eat on.

If you are curious if gluten might be impacting any health issues, I recommend you try a few weeks with out it and see how it feels when you bring it back in. Or alternatively, you might want to do a lab test while you are still consuming gluten to see how it might be impacting your body. But note, they are not all created the same (many just test for one component to poorly digested gluten most commonly alpha-gliadin or just an intestinal transglutaminase antibody). My two favorites tests are the Wheat Zoomer from Vibrant Wellness and The Cryex Gluten test. They both test many different parts of wheat, not just gluten (remember there are around 60 peptides in wheat that impact people and testing often only includes a few) and several different transglutaminases (antibodies). I have also used the Doctors Data Celiac and Gluten sensitivity test in the past and found it very insightful.

Many people have no idea they are sensitive to wheat or gluten until they remove it and their body has a chance to heal/repair or until they see their test results.

Depending on your unique reaction to gluten, some people need to be squeaky clean (as Dr. Tom O’Bryan says, you cannot be just a little bit pregnant if you are having an autoimmune reaction) while others can reduce the amount of gluten they are eating, or optimize the kind of gluten they are eating (like sourdough because of how the proteins are broken down in the fermentation process or ancient grains and ancient grains in their full form).

While there are many diets that are not meant for the long haul, and I am a big advocate of eating as wide a variety of whole foods as you can, avoiding gluten for the longterm is perfectly fine.

Do you know what is true for you and your relationship with gluten?


Thank you to my colleagues for reviewing and adding to this article- Angie Brown, Jennifer Burrows, Claire Sullivan, Jennifer Bruce, and Rose Khim

References

  1. Dr Kharrazian discusses various testing for gluten problems in this article.
  2. Dr. David Perlmutter article on gluten sensitivity
  3. Pubmed research article on celiac disease vs non celiac gluten sensitivity
  4. Listen here to an interview with expert Dr. Allesio Fasano about gluten research and leaky gut. Find more of his research on the resources page here
  5. Pubmed research article on how gluten impacts gut permeability for celiac and non celiac patients
  6. Nakayama, Andrea. Functional Nutrition Lab. Digestion Intensive 2018
  7. Bauman College. Therapeutic Nutrition. 2018
  8. Obryan, Dr. Tom. Facts About Gluten and The Gluten Summit
  9. www.aarda.org/news-information/statistics – American Autoimmune Related Disease Association
  10. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00130/full – Article- Bread and Other Edible Agents of Mental Disease
  11. Obran, Tom. Autoimmune Fix. Rodale Inc. New York, NY. 2016
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945755/. Article- Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance

Janel Ferrin Anderson is a Functional Medicine Nutritionist who is obsessed with understanding the science of how we, as unique individuals, interact with the food we eat and our lifestyle. She teaches group classes and works one on one with people to optimize health both remotely and out of her office in Truckee CA

Healing Foods Club is included in Foundations of Health

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